There is no way Tristan Jarry can stay in Pittsburgh after that abysmal postseason performance. He had a 2-4 record with a minus-6.91 goals saved above expected (GSAx), which currently ranks dead last in the NHL in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He is being paid $3.5 million AAV for two more seasons, so it is unknown if his contract is even moveable, but the answer is clear, the Pittsburgh Penguins need a new starting goaltender, so let’s take a look at some options.
Grubauer is probably the best goaltender on the free-agent market this offseason. The German netminder just had a 30-9-1 record to go with a .922 save percentage (SV%) and 4.26 GSAx during the regular season. He is currently 4-0 with a 0.43 GSAx in the postseason, recently sweeping the St. Louis Blues.
Over his career, Grubauer has a 113-61-21 record to go with a .921 SV% and 35.56 GSAx, which shows he has been consistently good, which is what the Penguins have lacked through the entirety of Sidney Crosby’s career. (from ‘Chambers: Avs goalie Philipp Grubauer, a pending free agent, on pace to more than double his salary,’ Denver Post, 03/26/2021)
The problem with pursuing Grubauer through free agency would be his insanely high cap hit that he will likely receive. As we have seen recently with netminders like Sergei Bobrovsky and Jacob Markstrom, giving goaltenders long-term with a decently high cap hit as well just usually does not turn out well for teams.
I would say the likelihood of this move is very low, as I wouldn’t see why Grubauer would want to leave the Colorado Avalanche, however, if he does, the Penguins must clear space to go for him.
Another option for the Penguins in net this offseason could be Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Mrazek, who has recently lost his starting job to rookie Alex Nedeljkovic. If he wants to play more, he could leave in free agency, which would give Pittsburgh to jump right in and snatch him.
Mrazek, 29, was hampered with injuries this season, being limited to just 12 games. He had a 6-2-3 record in this limited time to go with a .923 SV% and a whopping 10.73 GSAx. Throughout his career, he has a 128-96-31 record with a .911 SV% and 10.31 GSAx.
While he has not been as consistent as Grubauer over his career, over his last three seasons, Mrazek has been a reliable 1A goaltender at the least, and he would be a major upgrade from Jarry. The question is, how much will he want? I would assume he would be looking for more of a 1-2 year deal to prove he can play at this level through a full season.
I would say this is more likely to happen than Grubauer is, simply because Mrazek is much more expendable for the Hurricanes.
When I covered the Florida Panthers, people who read my work know how big of a Driedger supporter I am. As the backup, he performed very solid, with a 14-6-3 record to go with a .927 SV% and 7.03 GSAx. These are insane numbers, and he would probably be staying in Florida next season if it weren’t for the horrific Bobrovsky contract and emergence of rookie Spencer Knight.
Driedger, 27, maybe a candidate to go to the Seattle Kraken this summer, however, if they decide to pass on him, the Penguins may take a look. The only problem here would be his inexperience. He has played just 41 games at the NHL level in his career, with a 21-10-4 record and a .926 SV% and 14.42 GSAx. So obviously, he has been great, but as I said, the sample size is very small.
Now with that being said, I honestly do not know what type of contract Driedger will get. Does a team give him 3+ years at $3,000,000 AAV? Or will he have to settle for another short-term deal to prove himself one more time? Either way, he looks like an upgrade from Jarry as well, and it isn’t that much older.
Now while this may sound weird, as Andersen has not been very good the last two seasons, we all know how “voodoo” goaltenders can be and how they can break out again out of nowhere, something that is very possible in this scenario.
This season, Andersen was 13-8-3 with a .895 SV% and -11.19 GSAx. This is terrible, especially on a team that dominated the North division all season long. From this terrible campaign, he has lost his starting job to Jack Campbell, and it looks like his time in Toronto, at least as a starting goaltender, is over.
However, the attraction from Andersen for me comes from his earlier years, where he was arguably a top-five goaltender in the NHL. For example, from the 2015-16 season to the 2018-19 season, he had a .917 SV% and 37.51 GSAx. He was dominant and extremely capable of playing behind a weak Maple Leafs defensive core.
Along with showing he can carry the load for a team, Andersen also is a great locker room presence, making friends with young stars Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner in the playoffs, it would be great to have a veteran like him in net.
Ultimately, I see Andersen being a goaltender looking for a short-term prove-it deal, hoping he can regain old form and improve his value. For me, he seems more like a 1B to Jarry, however, one who could help mentor the young goaltender.
After the brutal season he just had and the emergence of Adin Hill, the Arizona Coyotes may just be looking to move Kuemper, and if so, the Penguins have to jump on that.
Kuemper, 31, struggled mightily this season as he dealt with injuries, with a 10-11-3 record and a .907 SV% and -1.21 GSAx; however, I think this might have had to do with the terrible defense in Arizona and his struggles with health. In 2019-20, he had a 16-11-2 record and .928 SV%, putting up Vezina-caliber numbers.
Since Kuemper is not a free agent, the Penguins would have to give up assets for him. I would assume the Coyotes want draft picks since they lack them as of right now. Originally last year, they were asking for a first-round pick allegedly, however, I doubt that is on the table at this point. I could see a second-round pick and a prospect, maybe Nathan Legare, getting it done.
Now this one would bring the Penguins to another level. Lehner is a great person and an amazing goaltender, probably top-ten in the NHL. However, he has seemingly lost the starter spot to Marc-Andre Fleury, who is playing insane this season. It is unknown if the Vegas Golden Knights even want to move a goaltender or keep their tandem, however, he would be a great option if they were willing to part with him.
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Lehner, 29, had a 13-4-2 record along with a .913 SV% and a 4.96 GSAx. He is a calm goaltender who likes to stay in his net and does not move around much, basically Jarry’s complete opposite. He plays a style similar to former Penguins goaltender Matt Murray, which is better than a goaltender who is always moving around in the playoffs.
The one problem with Lehner would be his trade value, as the Golden Knights could milk out every last trade asset for him, but all I’m saying is this would be an excellent goaltender for the Penguins to bring in and would poise them another great season next year.
Now, will the Penguins trade Jarry? Only time will tell, but I do not see another option after his horrific postseason. All I do know is that the Penguins have won just three playoff games since 2019 and have not won a series since being eliminated by the Washington Capitals in 2018, and I do not think they’ll break that drought with their current tandem.